Tallahassee was established as the Florida state capital in 1821, but the area surrounding the city has been on European maps since the 1500s. Long occupied by the agrarian Apalachee people, the area slowly gave over to Spanish and other European settlers beginning in the 1600s. Today Tallahassee sits firmly at the center of Florida history, politics and culture—even if, to those of us in Southwest Florida, it still feels like a remote outpost. For those willing to make the trek, Tallahassee makes for an illuminating weekend away.
The Capitol Building
Tallahassee has some of the best museums and historic sites in the state. Start with the Florida Historic Capitol Museum (400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee; 850.487.1902; flhistoriccapitol.gov). High points include the restored governor’s private office from the early 1900s, the Civil Rights exhibit from the 1960s and a pair of boots from Lawton Chiles’ 1970 U.S. Senate campaign. Chiles walked 1,033 miles from the panhandle to the Florida Keys and earned the nickname “Walkin’ Lawton.”
Florida State University
A visit to the university begins at the James D. Westcott Memorial Building (222 S. Copeland St., Tallahassee; fsu.edu), the architectural centerpiece of the campus and an iconic symbol of FSU. Originally built in 1910, the building was reconstructed after a fire in 1969. Today it stands as the administrative hub of the university. From there, visit the adjacent historic Eppes Hall, the nearby iron arch that serves as the entrance to the university and the Westcott Fountain that has been flowing for over 70 years.
The ornamental gardens of the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park (3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee; 850.487.4556; floridastateparks.org) were first planted in the early 1920s as part of a family winter estate. Today, the state park is spread over more than 1,000 acres and includes a secret garden, a reflecting pool, a walled garden and hundreds of camellias and azaleas. The gardens have nature trails, as well as a lake where visitors can swim, fish, canoe and kayak.
Railroad Square Art District
After the historic sites and museums, step into something more thoroughly modern: the Railroad Square Art District (Railroad Square, Tallahassee; 850.224.1308; artdistrict.com). The WWII-era industrial park has been transformed into boutiques, galleries and eateries. Try the Crum Box Gastgarden (653 Railroad Square, Tallahassee; 850.599.0633; facebook.com/thecrumbox) for house-made sausages, regional craft brews and live local music. Just look for the red caboose.
Hotel Duval from the Marriott Autograph Collection
The Autograph Collection’s Hotel Duval (415 N. Monroe St., Tallahassee; 850.224.6000; marriott.com) is at the epicenter of Tallahassee, close to the university, museums and the capitol building. The historic structure was originally built in 1951, and the modern-day boutique hotel has signature amenities that fans of the Autograph Collection have come to appreciate, like expansive bathrooms and fine detailing. Round out a stay in the state’s capital with a cocktail at Hotel Duval’s chic rooftop bar.